directed by Justin Theroux
0 out of 5 stars
Reviewed for Coffeerooms by Mike Jefferson
“Dedication” will make you cry – which is unfortunate, because it’s supposed to make you laugh. It’s so achingly bad you’ll be checking your watch five minutes into the “action,” praying for Gamera the flying turtle to eat you alive. (Don’t worry, I’ll explain that comment. Just read on.)
There isn’t a solitary laugh to be had in this very dark, listless comedy. As for the plot -- the only plot worth paying attention to is the one illustrator Randy Holt (crusty Tom Wilkinson) winds up in within the first half hour. It’s too bad for Tom that the script requires him to reappear intermittently as the main character’s alter ego/conscience. Wilkinson’s Randy is the closest “Dedication” has to a likable character; he swears with flair, eats Genoa salami knowing it’s bad for his heart, and to say he’s got a pessimistic view of life gives manic depressives a bad name. Compared to Henry (unlovable Billy Crudup), a sarcastic, potty-mouthed children’s book writer, Randy is the Dalai Lama. Henry has a fear of anything that turns clockwise, hates carrots and snakes, and won’t ride in cars --“Statistically, you have a 100% change of having and accident. They’re death traps,” he says. One of the ways he copes with the world’s perceived sleights is to stack books on his chest (a habit that’s never explained). Another is to watch Gamera movies. (See I told you I’d explain.) Gamera, the flame spewing flying turtle, was series of amateurish 60s Japanese sci-fi movies with bad overdubbing. (The kind of movie where the actor’s lips move thirty seconds after they say something.) Gamera frequently battled Godzilla and other stuntmen in rubber suits with unintentionally sidesplitting results. Godzilla, Mothra, and Ghidorah I could understand. But Gamera? Gamera was such an insignificant movie monster even fans of the genre probably don’t know there was more than one movie starring the flying can of soup. Not having a decent monster movie diversion is further proof of Henry’s self loathing.
Randy and Henry are scrambling for an idea for a new series of children’s books. They come up with Marty – “the beaver with an edge.” With the book deal in place, Randy checks out with a bad ticker, but not before he tells Henry to find himself a “nice girl.” The next scene is of a heartbroken Henry crying uncontrollably, then visiting Randy’s gravesite. The laughs just keep coming…
Henry’s publisher Arthur Plank (Bob Baliban, who’s stiff as a board), is still expecting Henry to write the Marty the Beaver series, so he enlists the talents of a new illustrator, Lucy (Mandy Moore, who we could use less of). Henry and Lucy initially hit it off like Sparta and Greece. Henry lashes out with profanity-laced vitriol that nearly scuttles their relationship before Lucy can even sharpen her crayons. Determined to succeed, Lucy finally fights back: “You don’t always have to say the first wise-ass thing that pops into your head. It makes you look weak, not clever. So f***king knock it off.” Naturally, sad-sack Henry begins to fall in love with her. Even Randy (his ghost or Henry’s conscience, whatever) approves:
Henry: I think I’m starting to like her.
Randy: Show her you best.
Henry: I can’t. I don’t have a best. My best is at best depressing.
Aside from Henry being a (insert invective here), Lucy’s former British boyfriend Jeremy is back in her life. (A queasy looking Martin Freeman plays Jeremy. He acts as if he’s wearing red ant BVDs and his career has been dealt a death blow. P.S. Marty, it has.) Jeremy’s written a sure fire hit novel of his own, which he plans to dedicate to Lucy. What Lucy doesn’t know is Jeremy has written the exact dedication for Simone, a girl he had an 18-month relationship with. First girl to accept the engagement ring wins the dedication sweepstakes. Lucy forgives the affair and begins to think about settling down with Jeremy, so the clock is ticking on Henry’s opportunity to win Lucy’s rather confused head and heart.
With the covert assistance of his publishing friend Don Meyers (the mega-talented Bobby Cannivale, who must have seen the rushes and demanded his scenes be cut), Henry finds out about Jeremy’s duplicitous dedications. He suggests to Lucy that the two of them go to Plank’s Montauk getaway to work on the book, intent on showing her proof of Jeremy’s double-dealing. A sense of guilt forces him to throw the book out of the window. Thanks to his infatuation with Lucy, Henry’s emotional walls are crumbling. Henry also conquers two of his greatest fears, driving (albeit with a helmet on in the back seat) and dealing with something that turns clockwise (the front door key). But Henry’s insecurities resurface when he learns Plank offered Lucy a $200,000 bonus to get the book finished on time. He’s convinced sleeping with him was part of the deal. (In which case Lucy should have asked for double.) Heartbroken, Lucy departs and winds up collaborating with a new writer (Peter Bogdanovich in a cameo role. Wisely, he says nothing.) Lucy plans to marry Jeremy and move to England. Defeated, Henry goes to the rooftop of his building to commiserate with Randy:
Randy: So you thought she was the one. A guy meets nine hundred girls during his mating years. So you think she might be the one in nine hundred? Still, a a devastating blow.
Henry: Well at least I have you.
Randy jumps off of the roof. By now, you’ll want to do the same. The abrupt removal of Henry’s emotional crutch forces him to act on his own in order to win back Lucy. Can he do it? Will you care? Naaaaah.
If the actors have any skills, they’re saving them for other films. Howard Rollins look-alike Billy Crudup (who needs a name change) can’t ring any sympathy out of his snide, pathetic character. When his emotional icing begins to melt, he goes from bitchy to buffoon. His crud is definitely up throughout the film. Tom Wilkinson’s curmudgeonly Randy could have provided some substance, or at least a few laughs, but his performance and life are cut short. Bunched up Bob Balaban and bosom buddy Bobby Cannivale (who’s only in one scene) aren’t given a chance to contribute, and Diane Wiest is a waste as Lucy’s mother, who’s only function is tease her daughter with good intent and then yank it away. Wiest is one of the few actors to star in the watershed drama “Law and Order” and look boring. She’s more so here, and her character is an illogical unnecessary mess.
Mandy Moore appears as a brunette, her shiny, almost purple hair giving her an unbecoming Goth look. Her hair has a life of its own. It spills in her face in a scene with Crudup in which she’s looking into a telescope. Her face winds up completely covered, making her look like a Greenwich Village Cousin It. The dark tresses accent the moles (or warts) on Moore’s face. I swear, they multiply and disappear at will during the course of the film. Her biggest peak is a Cindy Crawford beauty mark near her upper lip. It made Cindy look sexy, but gives Mandy a third eye effect, and when two other facial anomalies pop up, it’s connect the dots time. I’m far from perfect (or handsome), and we should all be grateful the producers decided to make Mandy look as normal as possible, but the witch around the caldron look isn’t good for anybody. Spend some money on make up for Christ sakes.
Less distracting, but still noticeable, is Moore’s height advantage over Crudup. In the 40s leading ladies teamed up with vertically challenged leading man Alan Ladd (he was generously listed as 5’ 5”) had to stand in a trench in order to see eye to eye with him. I’m not saying the same had to be done here, but there’s a scene on the beach with a stooped Crudup (now that sounds like an affliction, doesn’t it?) with Moore standing nearby that’s bound to add doubt to any physical attraction between these two. I had the pleasure of dating two women who were 5’ 10”, so yes, height can be irrelevant in real life, but this is Hollywood, folks. Somebody should have been on top of that.
As for Moore’s acting – she should be glad she’s got a singing career. She can’t act a lick, and that’s saying a lot in a picture where just a whiff of talent would have made her look as skilled as Betty Davis.
I’m certainly not a conservative (although I was an altar boy until I discovered the wine stash), but there’s a lot of pointless profanity tossed about. They should have cut some of this s*# *out.
Be good to yourself. Don’t dedicate a moment of your life to this complete downer of a tax write off. Gamera should swallow any trace of “Dedication” whole.